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A Magazine for Sheffield

Drenge: The Return of the Brothers Loveless

Dazed, disorientated and dripping with sweat. Anyone who’s attended a Drenge gig will be familiar with the feeling. Since forming the band in 2010, the Brothers Loveless have built a reputation as one of the most formidable live acts around, famously winning over Labour MP Tom Watson, who namechecked them in a resignation letter. Their self-titled debut followed through on the promise, delivering a dozen slices of raucous, animalistic garage rock without a hint of filler. The addition of bassist Rob Graham saw the siblings expand their sound on 2015’s Undertow, with punky lead single ‘We Can Do What We Want’ receiving its debut on David Letterman’s US talk show. After taking a break from touring for three years, the trio released new single ‘This Dance’ in May and took on a string of live dates, with festival appearances scheduled at Deer Shed in Thirsk and Truck in Oxfordshire. We caught up with guitarist and singer Eoin Loveless via Skype to talk about their return to the stage and that long-awaited third record. How did the Grand Reopening Tour go? It was very exciting. We had a lot of fun playing. The tour went really well. It was quite unusual doing something that was such a big part of our lives for such a long time and taking a break from it. We were very nervous about touring again and shifting our lifestyle pattern back into something that’s a bit more unusual than a normal person’s life fits around. The shows were just very enjoyable. You took a break from touring for three years. What were you up to? We were kinda slowly trying to work on our next record and also making sure that our family relationships and personal relationships didn’t fall into disrepair. There was a bit of learning to cook again, learning to clean the house again. Is touring something you enjoy? I enjoy it a lot, but I find it quite a difficult thing to fit around having a normal life. You have all these old relatives going, 'It’s so good to see you again,' because we’re so busy with stuff that we haven’t been to those sort of things in such a long time. It’s being away from Sheffield. Yeah, yeah. It’s a little unusual, and then when you do go to those [family events], touring is the only thing people want to ask you about. You’re playing two festivals in July. What kind of setlist have you got planned? Stuff from the new album or older crowd pleasers? I think a bit of both. We don’t want to completely alienate people by playing new songs, that would just be a bit arrogant. I think we’ll just try and put on a bit of a party atmosphere and try and keep it a bit uptempo and joyful. Are smaller festivals more appealing than the likes of Glastonbury or Leeds? Both these festivals feel like they’ve been put together for very specific audiences. Deershed has got a big family atmosphere and they focus on being inclusive to people of all ages, so that seems to be something that they include in their lineup. With Truck, it’s more of a moshers’ paradise. It’s very nice to be asked to play these festivals for very separate reasons, really. It’s not like you’re playing the grand sponsored stage at a big but largely anonymous festival. Are you planning on playing more secret shows around the time of the album release? Yeah... [laughs] It’d be kinda giving it away. I don’t think they’ll be so secret. But yeah, we did a bunch of shows over the past couple of years in Sheffield, testing out new material and keeping it pretty intimate. There was something special about those gigs that wouldn’t translate to a normal gig. I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t a specific, planned thing, but there was something kind of handmade about them, I guess. So yeah, I think we’ll definitely have to try and do that. I dunno if we’ll keep doing it in Sheffield or if we try other places, take our ability to create a special one-off thing and see if any other cities are up for it. How has having Rob [Graham] on board changed the way you wrote the new album, as opposed to the first two? We try out a lot of stuff in a practice room and it was interesting having someone else’s input and being able to play the songs. We had them all ready to go before we went into the studio. I don’t think we’ve ever made a record where we’ve been ready from the off to go in and play, so that was really interesting. Rob’s got a wealth of expertise. He’s played in tons of bands and knows everything there is to know about guitars and amps, so it’s useful having that expertise onboard. When we started working with Rob, we had him playing bass and shifted him onto playing guitar. It’s something that he’s much more comfortable doing. You've said before that Undertow was written 'as an album', as opposed to the first record which was a collection of earlier songs you played at pubs and bars. Did you have a clear idea of the shape of the new album before you started work? Not really. We kind of went in with live adaptations of all the songs. We took them in and tried them out. Some stuck and some we had to completely redesign and redevelop. It’s always daunting going into the studio, because I don’t think we’re ever sure what’s going to work inside. We could have made a record that sounded like either of our last two records, but we’ve worked harder to push our sound a lot more and focus on things that maybe we didn’t have the time or the awareness to think about when we were making the first two records. Is first single ‘This Dance’ representative of the new album? I’d say it’s a good starting point, a good indication of where it’s going, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely representative of everything that happens on there. Where’s your favourite place to play? We played a gig in a cave next to our parents’ house in Castleton and that was really funny, because the cave works as a loudspeaker and everyone in the village could hear what was happening in the cave, so we were just taunting our parents’ neighbours. Is that the Devil’s Arse? I think Jarvis played there recently too. Yeah, he did. My parents have Jarvis’s music ringing round their front room. [Castleton] is becoming a bit of a tourist deadzone really. There’s less and less people living there and more and more houses going up on Airbnb. The population’s shrunk massively. What are your thoughts on the Sheffield music scene right now? It’s a really special set of people who work really hard to bring together lots of different talents. The nights that are put on at [Delicious] Clam and the Audacious [Art Experiment] and stuff are so vital to making this city a culturally interesting place to live. I’m not sure I can speak on behalf of it, but for me it’s massively inspiring having all this stuff going on, bubbling away and being reactive against the more polished side of the music industry. Drenge play Deer Shed Festival on 20 July, Truck Festival on 21 July and Cardiff University on 18 October. New single 'This Dance' is out now. )

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